Imagine if you overcame a malignant brain cancer, quit your job, had a pregnant partner and a mortgage to pay without any personal savings and then decided to try change the world. Well, I did.
It’s 2am and the blackness of the room hasn’t abated, the swaying shadows of the trees outside projected onto the ceiling has failed at lulling me to sleep, and the red LED light emanating from the TV receiver is still catching my eye. My heart rate is elevated, my pupils are dilated, and I’ve now successfully achieved my 30th 360° roll in the bed without waking up my wife or without finding any comfort or even a tinge of tiredness. My social media feeds are abuzz with family and friends who are living their best lives, in states of comfort and achieving some pretty incredible milestones, I resort back to thinking about what I’ve achieved, in a professional capacity, and I still don’t feel worthy. My mind is racing and I’m fully involved in the process of having a mild panic attack. My arms start to tingle… “am I having a heart attack?… no”, I’ve just been lying on them too long… I think. I am scared. I cannot escape the crushing reality that this is all on me, this is my fault and I need to find a way to dig myself out, I need to find a way. Welcome to the life of someone who has everything to lose, also known as a start-up founder.
Life is a weird sequence of events that lead us into situations and positions we could never have imagined. Firstly, I always thought I was going to be a lifer in the marketing and advertising company I joined as a very inexperienced, and very green 23 year old. I thought I would work my way up the corporate ladder, buy a house, get a dog, be married by 26, have a nice car and then eventually retire one day. Life had other plans.
At 24 I was diagnosed with a malignant brain cancer called a Pineal Cytoma, which resulted in travelling half way across the world, 4 brain surgeries, an enforced sabbatical and a lot of questions, questions I didn’t yet have answers to, and I was starting to figure out why I was here. I had managed to learn the most valuable lessons of my life, during a period of panic and utter confusion I managed to pull together the pieces of chaos and assemble a semblance of a plan, but I still had a long way to go before finding my real purpose. Before going under for each of the brain surgeries there was a very real possibility that I wouldn’t wake up, I wouldn’t get to hug my parents and sisters and tell them I love them, I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow, trying asking yourself that question, that if there was no guarantee of waking up tomorrow, what would you do today? What would you do differently? How would you engage with others? When you do wake up, you really wake up. My whole world was different, my friends, family and colleagues all saw me differently, and that’s okay because I was different. I couldn’t undo what had happened to me but maybe I could use it.
At 30 years old, and after 5 years of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, I figured it was time to acknowledge the elephant in the workplace, I was no longer suited to my current occupation and I wasn’t pulling my weight either. I resigned from an incredible company because I felt I was doing them a disservice by being there whilst I wasn’t fully “there”. Everything I had been through had changed me, moulded me into something that needed to keep challenging myself and to try find an answer to my purpose. My mind was elsewhere, and it was evident, and that coupled with the fact that I was going through a terrible bout of anxiety and depression was pretty much was an indicator that I needed a change.
So, I’m 30, unemployed, have a mortgage, recently married and trying to figure out my next steps, only to find out that those next steps would appear as baby steps… yes, my wife and I had fallen pregnant with our first child. The greatest miracle in the world, and Murphy’s Law it happens while I’m unemployed with no finite plans for the future. This is the moment in life when you’re supposed to have answers, and all I have is questions… and a drastically thinning bank account. Our pension for holidays and endurance events has taken its toll on our savings… to elaborate, there are no savings!
After a chance conversation with my sister around how she was accessing health and fitness services while pregnant, and after recalling countless conversations I had had with health and fitness professionals during my recovery from cancer, I began forming the basis for what is now WELD. During my gardening leave my wife and I started working on the basics of the business, the financial model and business plan were completed in the first two weeks of unemployment and through some introductions and referrals I was able to secure a seed round to help get the business off the ground, albeit this was an incredibly challenging process. Little did I know that the real moments of fear were yet to come.
I set about trying to answer my purpose and to provide a platform that would incentivise information sharing, allows all parties to earn through activity, as well as providing hope to people who felt forgotten. I was trying to take action out of Steve Jobs’ famous one liner: “The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are often the ones who do.”
WELD was formally established on 16 August 2018. It was my proudest professional moment to date. WELD (Wellbeing, Exercise, Lifestyle & Diet) is a fitness co-operative marketplace platform which focusses on bringing a one-to-one and group training platform to the everyday person through accessibility, affordability, usability & scale. The platform delivers on providing benefits to the health professional, small studio owner & the end user which aren’t being provided on any similar type of platform in the market. Just like the majority of health professionals, we were so tired of seeing big studios & gyms taking advantage of customers and most importantly health professionals by charging extortionate studio rent charges, that we created the WELD platform which is centred and designed around health and fitness professionals.
The WELD allows users to find any type of health professional, such as PT’s, instructors, nutritionists, industry experts, dieticians and a whole host of other professionals through our marketplace platform, and provides the ability to plan, manage, book, communicate, earn through referrals and pay for these sessions, at a much cheaper rate than currently available. WELD aims to provide people who want to get access to health professionals in environments that suit them, with people who are qualified to do so, in order to help them maintain their health and fitness.
We have built in rewards & referrals that are aimed at all three audiences of the platform (users, health professionals & premises owners). There are a number of ways that we have structured these:
1) We only take a low % service fee off every booking, which means the health professionals can earn well over 80% income from each session, which allows them to earn substantially more than in corporate gyms or studios.
2) Any user of the platform can refer their contacts to the platform and will receive a % referral fee from every session these contacts participate in on the platform, in perpetuity. They can withdraw this as cash.
3) We introduce profit sharing with the health professionals that is paid on a monthly basis.
4) WELD is like an AirBnB of fitness
5) If a user of the platform creates a group class, they earn 10% back from the group session as cash, which incentivises users to create group sessions with their friends/colleagues/employees, as they get money back for creating the session.
It’s been a weird road, and there are often times where I feel overburdened, the weight of responsibility and hope is relentless, I know I have the most incredible support from my wife and family but nevertheless there are moments of self doubt and fear. “What if this doesn’t work?”… I then take a moment, recollect my thoughts and fire back “What if it does?